not a charming day with snakes

so, all afternoon and into early into this evening, i listened to the digital side of my rig with a power snakes hydra inserted at different positions. my older son, a second-generation audiophile, was present during the greater portion of this session. during our time together, i began by plugging my pre/dac and transport into the hydra. we played numerous disks, mostly in the “groove rock,” “acid jazz,” “adult rock,” and “folk/pop” genre, including some direct-to-cd recordings done in the past few days ( this son is a consultant to radio stations and record labels, which gives me some awesome access to the current music scene). some examples of discs on our play list: radiohead, “kid a”; air, “moon safari”; phish, various; pink floyd, “echoes”; oysterhead, “the grand pecking order”; mark knopfler, “sailing to philadelphia”; the bobs, “cover the songs of.....”; dylan (also my 1st son’s name), “slow train comin’ ”; dave carter & tracy gammer, “drum, hat, buddha”, etc. (yeah, I know “etc.” doesn’t quite make it with this lineup but, hey....). after listening for an hour and a half or so to numerous cuts on the “play list,” our initial reaction was: wow, the soundstage has really widened but something’s not quite right. then it hit us both, almost simultaneously: the PRaT’s all screwed up. everything sounds constipated, slowed, without rhythm or pace. we then took the hydra from the frontend/source and moved it so i could plug my amp into it. at first, things improved. the supreme quickness of the system returned, while the huge soundstagen remained. as the hydra “warmed up,” however, the constrictions to the bowels increased. constipation again. the flip-side of PraT. unplugging the hydra brought everything back as it had been. the quickness was heard again in the cymbals, drums, lead guitars and mandolins. the bass tightened. voices were back where they should be, separated, focused and steady. thus my query: has anyone else had this experience with the hydra? i’ve heard so many good things about it that I was completely unprepared for the negative things it did in my system.

associated equipment (digital side only): boulder 1012 pre/dac; accuphase dp- 90 cd transport; jeff rowland 8ti amp; avalon eidolon speakers; tara, the one ic’s (pre to amp) and speaker cables; accuphase st att&t optical and accrotech 99.9999 coax digital connections; tara, the one and power snakes python pc’s; 5 dedicated 20 amp circuits w/ hospital-grade outlets.

one disc i neglected to mention on the play list, which i highly recommend, is zero 7, "simple things." this is a uk group somewhat reminiscent of portishead but much, much better, IMO. great sonics, in any event. -cfb
The Hydra doesn't travel well and the fully cooked unit (it was the Soundstage! review sample) sounded just about the way you described it and took about five days to settle down from it's journey to me.....It was really dark sounding the first couple of days and lightened up a bit after that......I liked it better than the PS Audio I purchased and better than the Vans Evers units, but liked a custom unit I build a bit better (it is essentially out of production)......Bottom line is plug it back in for a few days to see if it doesn't come back....Keep the cord off the floor and put the unit on some small cones on something hard and you might end up liking it....I used it with some home made electronics I cobbled together or modified along with Rockport turntable table and speakers......

Bob Crump
TG Audio/CTC Builders/DDR Mfg
bob: why is your custom unit "essentially out of production"? if you have even one left, i'd sure like to hear (or not hear) it. -cfb
Cornfed, I had similar results in my system. I did not try them with my digital, but did audition over a three week period using the Walker turntable.

With Powersnakes on my Callisto preamp, Io phono and on the Wolcott amps, I spun lots of LP's. The effect on the Dave Mathews / Santana cut, is still stuck in my head, even today.

One thing I noticed, I am not sure you are describing the same thing, the midrange had a completely "separate" quality about it. At first the Powersnakes seemed to uncover additional separation and detail.

After long term listening, I realized the midrange was a part of the musical spectrum that was not being compressed in the same way (or as much?) as the remainder of the music. This became intolerable in the long term, but it is interesting to remember the effect it had on me.

I did not post results at that time, due to the vast number of Audiogon members RAVING about Powersnakes. It is interesting that with totally different equipment and source, you had equally disappointing results.
Kelly-You should get a hold of John(uses the moniker jtinn, here) he is super helpful with this sort of stuff(he sells shunayta among other gear), I am sure he can give you some sort of answer, you may already know him. Any reason in particular you decided to try a hydra? bored with your rig, or just searching for the holy grail?

What are you using the coax digital cable on? trying a different combination of cables seeing if it works better/worse/indifferent from the at&t/st cable? I ask this simply because I was thinking of doing a Hydra prior to upgrading interconnects. I live in a cave which can not be re-wired for any sort of reasonable fee(unless I take down a concrete wall), so I am stuck with a very inadequate electrical set-up.
Thanx for any help,
albert: i also observed what you observed, tho this effect wasn't as disturbing as the loss of pace/"quickness" in my listening sessions. the PRaT problems i encountered were also manifested by bass muddiness on a number of discs. - kelly
Hi Kelly; a couple of points; 1) it's been my experience that PRaT is a VERY fragile audio characteristic in high resolution systems-- it's easily destroyed or screwed up (you probably know this too?). I know it because I listen to a LOT of music where good PRaT is essential to its enjoyment (R&R, Blues, Soul, Pop etc.). And 2) in the course of attempting certain "upgrades", I've destroyed or seriously diminished it several times, eg by using a Madrigal AES/EBU cable between transport and DAC, Townshend Seismic Sinks under ML37 transport and ML 360S DAC, AND use of Shunyata Viper 2 power cord on any front end components. And on my amp, the Shunyata Sidewinder also did strange things to PRaT.

I should also mention that putting the Seismic Sink under my tube pre-amp actually improved PRaT, and that's where it's stayed. I also did not keep the Shunyata power cords in my system very long, but they were previously broken-in. BTW, The Syn. Res. Master Couplers that I use on everything had good PRaT right out of the box.

I'm not bashing any of the products mentioned, I'm just saying that they did not work in MY system, and that the loss of excellent PRaT is a VERY serious loss to me. Hell, I'd give up the sport (or start over) if my system permanently lost good rhythm.

A couple of months ago I got Vand. 5 speakers, and at first they didn't have very good PRaT, but I sweated, cussed, prayed, and generally perservered while breaking them in, and now they're great-- maybe not quite up with your Eidolons, but still damn good speakers-- AND with good rhythm;>). Re the Hydra, maybe it just needs some breakin or settle-in time as Rcrump mentions above? My dealer in Seattle highly recommends the Hydra, and I've considered one myself, and so am interested in your thread. Please keep us posted on your progress. Good Luck, and Cheers. Craig
tim: i was at my audio dealer's/best friend's place this am and poked my head around to see what i'd not yet heard in my rig. john suggested i try the hydra with a set of pythons, since i'd played around with some other pc's lately. of course, this was a yet another pathway on which to try to replicate the sound of horses' hooves with dried coconut shells. i've had the coax digital cable for some time; it's always fun to remotely switch cables and reverse polarity on the boulder just for kicks. (you can do much of the same on your accuphase dc-300.) FWIW, i'd try out various ic's B4 inserting a power conditioner (or whatever the hydra is) into your system. you can't make an omelette without first breaking a couple of eggs. -cfb
Cornfedboy, I heard flaws in the Hydra that you and Albert heard, but nothing is perfect....Upper midrange is down just a touch and there is a glitch way up top, a coldness as it were that bothered me, but not nearly like the ferrite bead tricks lots of folks use.....The lower mids/upper bass is a touch fat, but can speculate it is the cord used as understand it sounds that way.....The bottom line is that in most systems the Hydra will roll off the upper mids, fatten the lower mids and quiet things down a bit with the ferrites used inside the unit......These are good things for most digitally driven systems and I can sure understand the popularity.....I know Albert likes to hear how drunk the players are as do I and we use big analog rigs as a reference.....I think we are all being a bit too hard on the Hydra as it is a godsend to most folks out there that don't have 100K in their systems and the Hydra screws up the music much less than most all of the line filters available.....Oh, the unit I used to make is called a BybeeSucker and a two circuit unit would be necessary for your set-up with a digital preamp and CD player so the clocks don't talk to each other down the AC lines...I have not sold any in a while and there are updates available to those units in the field....It was set-up for those folks that primarily use analog and don't want to turn off the digital gear to enjoy analog as the digital AC backwave can ruin analog sound.......If I were you I would spend a little money and have three lines brought into you room, one for the CD player, one for the digital preamp and one for the amps and other analog gear and just forget about a line filter.....The inductance in the three separate lines should do a decent job of taking care of the digital backwave of one clock polluting other clocks or the analog gear.....
Hi Kelly, I hate to go off the topic, but if the Hydra which I have not heard does not cut it, and if you have the opportunity, please try the LATEST version of the Sound Applications CFX. I was very impressed with this unit. It is the first conditioner I have heard that didn't do something wrong somewhere. I can't say the same with amps plugged into it. If you get the opportunity, be sure it has been fully broke in. I do not think you will find a PRaT problem with this one.
Kelly, did you not baptise the PC in dry ice? You should do that before you pass judgement. Be sure to place in the tank with your left hand and recover it with your right hand. (An often missed part of the initiation.) If you miss this last part, PRAT can turn to TRAP, or worse yet as PART$$$.) Thanks for the music recommendations. Charlie.

p.s. In case this does not help, be sure to consult a dealer who sells them. They are always helpful with what you are really hearing.

I find your reaction to the Hydra interesting as I do all feedback from audiophiles. I happen to sell the Hydra, the Sound Application, the Audio magic Stealth, and when Jack Bybee was in business I sold more of his Pro line conditioners than anyone else.

I am a firm believer that everything starts at the wall and that once you have installed your dedicated lines that your powercords and conditioning are going to give your system the magic hidden within the components aching to be revealed.

There is a recent review comparing the Audio magic Stealth, the Sound Application, and the Hydra at www.enjoythe needless to say it is just one persons opinion but then that is what all reviews and personal observations can be.

I like all three units alot ( although they are very different from each other) and they each sound better than the others in different systems and especially with the powercords used. A great powercord can change the performance of a line conditioner more than any other component. If the Hydra has an obvious weakness it is that it limits experimentation with powercords by the connection that it uses limiting the powercord choices to the sidewinder (stock with the unit) the Mojave and the Python.

Break in is extensive on the unit and they state that in the manual as does every other line conditioner on the market. Also replacing the fuse with a copper slug improves the unit dramatically.

From your comments I believe that you would find the Stealth and Sound Application more to your liking. Not because they are better but because they may fit your flavor better. Every conditioner changes the sonic signature in some way just as does everything that you do to your system even if it is just putting different wood blocks under your components.

Realize the Hydra is pure magic in many systems and I am sure that is why so many rooms at CES had the unit in their systems. More than any conditoner. When a Hydra fits well within a system it gives it more of an analogue sound. But nothing works everywhere. I learned years ago that mixing different brands of powercords works better in most systems than just using one brand. In our showroom every room has a mix of Shunyata, Synergistic, Electraglide and Audio magic powercords. They all do different things and each have different strengths.

I was once so seduced by my 2 first Electraglide Fat Men that I put them everywhere in the system and suddenly what had been near perfection was transformed to being bloated and slow it was like I was moving through molasses. Too much of anything can move any system too far in many different directions and usually not for the best.

Who knows once it is all said and done you may like having no conditioner and just great powercords throughout your system. In my experience most systems benefit a great deal from the conditioners on the market. One did not work to your taste but there are many others! Also realize that with conditioners, cables, etc. even if properly burned in before you receive them it still takes up to a week for them to settle into your system.

In my experience the greatest mistake most audiophiles make is not giving products enough time to show what magic is hidden within them. The fact is that we all ache for instant utopia and want an instantaneous transformation the minute we plug in a new toy. It just does not work that way all the time.
We have some similar experiences with our AC power triphazers. Speeding up the connected devices timing can be a serious degradation to system sound.
BUT.. the degrading effects go away after a period from one to three days.
Unless left in one place for several days (A common reviewer mistake )you are not hearing what the cord sounds like. You might read the link "what is break in" at for some insight.

sos and michael: the hydra i've borrowed is well broken in. having been at this hobby for more than 30 years, i've heard my share of conditioners, surge protectors, power regenerators, powercords, ic's, cables and numerous related tweaks. my sound room has 5 dedicated circuits with large diameter wire and hospital-grade outlets, all separately grounded from other electrical, coax and telephone boxes. FWIW, i DO believe in the improvements wrought by break in/burn in and, as a matter of standard practice, listen critically only after each component in the chain is thoroughly broken in. after listening to the hydra today, which has been left on with all connected and unconnected components operating for more than 24 hours, my observations are the same as those in my opening post. i'll let you know if things change over the next few days. -cfb
Hi Cornfed,

I'm sorry your experience with the Hydra has been unsuccessful. Although I noted that Albert P. echos your impressions regarding pace, rhythym and timing, I have not heard of, or been given that feedback from the many customers, dealers, or manufacturers I've had contact with in the past year. In fact, the majority of the feedback we've received from within, and outside the industry has pointed to PRAT as a strength of the unit. Of course, that doesn't discount yours, or anyone's impressions that finds differently, or to the contrary.

If your impressions remain, I too would suggest that you investigate the Audio Magic Stealth. I have listened with that unit--thanks to Jerry, and can attest that it is a fine performer. It is extremely immediate, transparent and dynamic.

Interestingly, high current amp manufacturers such as Edge, BAT, Halcro(distributor), McCormack, and low-current amp manufacturers like ART, not only used the Hydra to power their amps at the Show, they also own and use Hydra in their own systems, as does Audio Research. If you know how sensitive amp/electronics manufacturers can be to tethering "power distribution" products to their amps, you'll understand this to be an achievement of sorts. Rowland Design has also eval'd Hydra and found that it did not interfere in any way with the performance and operation of their amps. We supplied 5 Hydras to power an even dozen Rowland amps at the Million $ Wisdom exhibit at the Show.

Bob Crump did have a mixed reaction to the Hydra we sent him, but that unit was a pre-production model that has virtually nothing in common with the Hydras that are being produced today. Bob mistakenly intimated that we use Ferrites inside of Hydra, which is incorrect. Ferrites would definitely compress dynamics and interfere with the critical pace and timing elements within music, which is why we avoid them.

If you'd like, I'd be happy to make a couple of suggestions regarding operation and set up that may, or may not, alter your experience. I don't believe this is a break-in issue, but there are many details and interactions within music systems that can tip performance in one, or another direction. Given the investment of your time in evaluation, it may be worth a little tinkering before throwing in the wet-blanket :). Feel free to e-mail or call anytime.


Grant Samuelsen
Shunyata Research
grant: i greatly appreciate your gracious and informative response. FWIW, i've found your upper-range power cords (the only ones i've tried) to be first rate and on my very short list of those i'm likely to purchase. i did mean to emphasize that my experiences were knowingly limited to my particular system, as it is comprised for the moment. as i mentioned, i've heard nothing but praise for the hydra from many sources. thus my surprise with my audition. i shall send you a private email pursuant to your invitation. again, thank you for your reasoned and polite post. it says much about the class of your company and its commitment to its customers. -cfb

I've been using a Power 1 manufactured by Platinum Power in Phoenix, Az, for 2 years. I have not compared it to the Hydra, but it replaced a Tice IIIc and was a huge improvement over the Tice. I also compared it on source equipment to the PS Audio 300 and the Platinum was noticeably superior.

It seems to do all the good things we expect from a power conditioner, without any of the negative side effects. It is rated at 2500 watts, has six isolated outlets for digital and 10 for analog.

While the review doesn't do it justice, check out

Platinum is a small, one-man operation, but it may possibly make the best power conditioner available.

For more information, contact my buddy, Gary, at Esoteric Audio in Scottsdale 480-946-8128.